Astros Owner and Chairman Jim Crane announced today that the team has hired Meg Vaillancourt, an award-winning sports executive with experience in both Major League Baseball and the National Football League, as the Astros new Vice President of Community Relations and Executive Director of the Astros In Action Foundation.
Vaillancourt, who will start with the Astros in January, will help lead development of the team’s community outreach and charitable initiatives, including expansion of the heralded Community Leaders program launched last year by Crane. Through the program, created in collaboration with the Houston Parks Dept, the Astros in Action Foundation and corporate sponsors revitalize and rebuild several public youth ball fields each year, while employing recent veterans as they develop new civilian careers in landscaping and facilities maintenance skills.
Prior to joining the Astros, Vaillancourt was a Senior Vice President with the Boston Red Sox and Executive Director of the Red Sox Foundation. While with Boston, Vaillancourt helped build the Red Sox Foundation into one of the most successful team charities in professional sports. Under her leadership, the Red Sox Foundation raised close to $70 million for nonprofit programs, including cornerstone charitable initiatives run by the team charity. Vaillancourt will serve as a consultant for the Red Sox Foundation in 2013.
During Vaillancourt’s tenure, the Red Sox Foundation earned numerous awards, including the Patterson Award for Best Team Charity in Sports, a national honor from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Sports Philanthropy Project. In 2010, the Foundation was recognized by Major League Baseball with the first-ever “Commissioner’s Award for Philanthropic Excellence.”
“Given her track record in creating one of the most successful team charities in sports as well as award-winning programs, the Astros are delighted to sign Meg to our team,” Crane said. “We know she will seize the tremendous opportunities that exist here in Houston to help achieve our Texas-sized goals for actively engaging our players, front office staff, sponsors and baseball fans across the region to make a difference in our community.”
An honors graduate from Harvard College and a Rhodes Scholar, Vaillancourt was a reporter with The Boston Globe and PBS before New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft tapped her to be Vice President of Community Relations for the NFL team. She joined the Red Sox in 2003 and quickly created innovative fundraisers, including the first-ever World Series Ring Raffle, which raised $3.4 million after the Red Sox’ 2004 and 2007 championships. The pioneering effort created a fan-favorite charitable fundraising technique now used by championship teams throughout sports.
“When we first hired Meg, we knew we had someone with a passionate commitment to helping others,” said Red Sox President/CEO Larry Lucchino. “But what we quickly learned is how extraordinarily effective she was in making our new team charity a philanthropic force.
“With deep dedication , keen intelligence, and endless energy for the work, Meg led the Foundation to great success. We’ve been delighted with the results she achieved in making the Red Sox Foundation the largest team charity in baseball and one of the most impactful team charities in pro sports. We know she will achieve similar success in Houston, and we’re thrilled that she’s agreed to continue consulting with us.”
Vaillancourt also helped strengthen the team’s award-winning Red Sox Scholars program, which now provides up to 220 Boston Public School students with academic and social support, enrichment opportunities, and college scholarships. Vaillancourt’s work won her high praise from Red Sox owners and Boston’s business, community and political leaders.
“Meg Vaillancourt has been the heart and soul of the Red Sox Foundation and her fine work has touched the lives of many in Boston, so we understand why the Astros owners in Houston wanted her to help develop their team charity and community outreach,” said Boston Mayor Thomas Menino. “As our friends in Texas will soon discover, Houston is importing one of Boston’s most talented social entrepreneurs. We will miss her smarts, compassion and leadership, but her work with at risk kids and wounded warriors here in New England is a great legacy.”
Another innovation Vaillancourt created was the annual Run to Home Base at Fenway Park, which raised nearly $7.5 million in just three events for the Red Sox Foundation and Mass General Hospital’s Home Base Program. Launched in 2009, Home Base provides counseling, treatment, and support services to wounded veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan with traumatic brain injury or combat stress, and also provides support for their families. With support from team owners, sponsors and fans, the Red Sox Foundation to date has raised more than $10 million to support mental health services for New England’s wounded veterans.
“I look forward to the challenge and opportunities of a new start-up and of working with the Astros in harnessing the enormous entrepreneurial energy of Houston to the impressive strategic vision of the team’s new ownership, led by Owner and Chairman Jim Crane, President and CEO George Postolos and the Astros in Action board,” Vaillancourt said. “Their commitment to building a championship caliber team on and off the field is deeply inspiring, and I know the work we do will have an enormous impact in the fastest growing city in the United States.”
“The Astros are building our executive team the same way we’re building our ballclub, with great young talent and some key acquisitions,” Postolos said. “We’re very pleased to add Meg’s exceptional skills and experience to our front office roster and know that with the generosity that characterizes our community here in Houston, she will help expand both the Astros outreach and philanthropic impact.”
Astros In Action Board Chairman Jeremy Monthy also commented on Vaillancourt, “The Foundation board is extremely excited that Meg has agreed to join our team of passionate leaders in Houston’s philanthropic community. Meg not only shares the new vision and bold goals the Foundation set forth less than one year ago, but her enthusiasm and record of accomplishment give us confidence that Astros in Action will thrive well into the future.”